Some entertaining elements, but only the boy gets to play hero.



In this children’s portal-fantasy adventure, 13-year-old twins enter a magic world ruled by a wicked Cyclops.

On the occasion of his 100th birthday on August 8, Great-Granddad Bill tells the amazing story of his and his twin sister Annie’s 13th birthday, when they passed through a portal to rainbow-colored Far-Ago Magic Island. There, Annie and Billy learn from a girl named Egnaro that twins born on the eighth day of the eighth month have great meaning to Far-Ago. She also tells them that all is not well in her homeland: “Although we have riches beyond compare on this beautiful island, we have no freedom.” A wicked, powerful Cyclops called Terominus, who can change his appearance, rules the land. Egnaro invites the twins to explore the island with the protection of a talisman and the dumligo, a multihorned Shetland-pony–like creature that can turn into a magical weapon, which Billy alone can use (and see, along with Terominus). The twins will have helpers, but they must keep in mind certain dangers and prohibitions, such as “Do not, under any circumstance, make eye contact with a kitten named Omenia.” After an attack in which Billy discovers that the dumligo’s horn becomes a large, shiny, magnificent silver sword, he realizes that he must kill the Cyclops to free the islanders. The twins undergo various dangers, such as capture by trolls, but they also find help, and Billy eventually faces his foe. In her debut book, Larcombe uses well-worn tropes like the portal itself, magical helpers and objects, a special destiny, and the hero’s coming-of-age journey. She enlivens this with colorful worldbuilding and a sense of charm, as with the dangerous kitten and a raucous troll celebration. Disappointingly, though, Billy is automatically put in charge of wielding the weapon. He’s a 13-year-old boy, so his physical strength is unlikely to tip the balance. Nevertheless, he’s the hero while Annie is given the dull role of being supportive from the sidelines: “Oh, Billy! You saved us! How brave you are! I wish I could see your wonderful sword.”

Some entertaining elements, but only the boy gets to play hero.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5049-8703-5

Page Count: 132

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2017

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A fun, fast-paced epic that science fiction fans will gobble up.


A curious scientist stumbles on mysterious ruins in the opening chapters of this science fiction epic.

Things are really turning around for Kira Navárez. A xenobiologist, she’s finishing up a stint doing research on the large moon Adrasteia with a small team of other scientists, and her boyfriend, Alan, has just proposed to her. Instead of continuing to spend months apart, working on different planets and waiting until they can be together, they'll be able to ask their employers to make them part of a colony as a couple. As Kira performs a few routine last-minute checks before their team leaves the system, something strange catches her eye. She decides to check it out, just to be thorough, and finds herself in the middle of an ancient structure. When her curiosity gets the better of her and she touches a pedestal covered in dust, a bizarre black material flows out and covers her entire body. She passes out as she's being rescued by her team, and when she comes to, she seems to be fine, and the team reports her findings to the government. But soon a kind of strange, alien suit takes over her body, covering her with black material that lashes out violently against Alan and the other scientists, forming spikes that jump out from her skin. A military ship comes to collect what's left of the team and investigate the reports of an alien discovery. When an alien species attacks the ship, presumably because of Kira’s discovery, Kira will have to learn to harness the suit’s strange powers to defend herself and the rest of the human race. Paolini, best known for the YA epic fantasy series The Inheritance Cycle, makes his adult debut in another genre that welcomes long page counts. This one clocks in at close to 900 pages, but the rollicking pace, rapidly developing stakes, and Paolini’s confident worldbuilding make them fly by. Perhaps not the most impressive prose, but a worthwhile adventure story.

A fun, fast-paced epic that science fiction fans will gobble up.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-76284-9

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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